Aidan Von Grabow to Stand Trial As Adult in Longmont Stabbing Case
Editor’s note: The story below initially misspelled Aidan von Grabow’s first name. It has been corrected.
Aidan von Grabow will stand trial as an adult for first-degree murder and a slew of other charges in the November stabbing death in Longmont of Makayla Grote, a Boulder judge ruled late Friday.
The ruling by Boulder County District Judge Andrew Macdonald to transfer the case from juvenile to adult court came at the end of a week that had seen four full days of often emotional and graphic testimony surrounding the Nov. 18 slaying in Longmont of Grote, 20.
Macdonald also bound von Grabow over for trial on 11 felony counts, including a single count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, plus two counts of stalking, two of menacing and one count each of criminal extortion, third-degree assault and criminal attempt to commit first-degree arson.
Boulder County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Catherine Olguin said the case will be heard by Boulder County District Judge Bruce Langer, and that von Grabow is due back in court at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday for a hearing on setting of bond.
The teen is to remain held without bond in the interim.
Friday had started with attorneys on both sides making their closing arguments to the judge laying out their reasons why, from the prosecution’s perspective, there was probable cause to bind von Grabow over for trial in adult court on all charges, with the defense arguing probable cause was not satisfied on every charge, and that he should be adjudicated instead in the juvenile system.
At stake was whether von Grabow, now 16, might face the prospect of life in prison upon conviction — with eligibility for parole after 40 years — or face at most seven years in the custody of the state Department of Youth Services, which would be followed by 10 years’ parole.
Deputy District Attorney Adrian Van Nice emphasized that the horror of Nov. 18 might have potentially not ended with von Grabow’s repeatedly stabbing Grote at her family’s apartment at The Shores at McIntosh Lake. She cited the “death list” he had compiled of other potential victims, as well as his arrest the day after the slaying outside a Lakewood home that was later learned to be the residence of another teen on that list.
“He intended to move on with that plan and move down that list and achieve all of the goals he could achieve before law enforcement could stop him,” Van Nice said Friday.
She revisited vivid testimony from the week relating to Grote’s younger sister having taken refuge within the apartment — she had been showering when Makayla Grote was attacked — protecting herself behind a closed door.
“The defendant methodically went through that apartment looking for additional victims, leaving blood evidence and damage in his wake,” Van Nice said.
Makayla died outside the apartment in a stairwell, and Van Nice said only the fact that she had grabbed a cellphone to try to call for help had “disrupted” von Grabow, causing him to suddenly abandon his pursuit of Grote’s younger sister and leave the residence instead.
“Makayla was a hero,” Van Nice said. “Mortally and fatally wounded, she pulled herself up off the floor where the defendant left her, as he moved through the apartment looking for other victims and stalking” Grote’s younger sister.
There had been extensive testimony throughout the week concerning von Grabow’s mental state in the months leading up to the slaying.
Much of it centered around the events surrounding his nine-day commitment in October 2017 to the Highlands Behavioral Health facility in Highlands Ranch. That followed an earlier arrest for sending Grote’s younger sister Snapchat messages threatening other students at Green Mountain High School, which he, plus the victim and her sister, had all attended.
Pueblo psychiatrist John Hardy testified Thursday that von Grabow’s treatment there was inadequate. And defense lawyer Mike Rafik on Friday said the decision by doctors to allow him to continue taking acne medication as he started a simultaneous regimen of the antidepressant Wellbutrin might well have put a “joyful,” “outdoorsy Colorado kid” and a “thoughtful, gentle soul” on the nightmarish path that left one young life forever stilled and another’s fate being determined in a Boulder courtroom.
“Witness after witness, testifying for the prosecution or the defense, told the court the same thing,” Rafik said. “No behavioral issues, no warning signs, no red flags, no aggression, no violence,” prior to the weeks leading up to Nov. 18. “Everyone was shocked. ‘It couldn’t have been Aiden. Aiden is not the kind of kid who could do something like this.’”
Focusing on his brief stay at Highlands, Rafik said, “This care was lacking and inconsistent and ineffective. Was he going to tell anyone at Highlands what he was really feeling? No chance. He was going to tell them all that he was feeling just fine.”
The reality, the defense attorney said, was that “bad medical decisions” at the psychiatric hospital, including allowing von Grabow to continue with the Claravis — a brand of acne medicine that defense attorneys have said may have side effects that can trigger a personality change — in combination with the Wellbutrin had proved to be a “toxic, dangerous and lethal combination.”
Rafik added: “It is incontrovertible that Aiden became seriously mentally ill, very quickly.”
There are 14 different factors Macdonald had to consider in making his decision. One went to the question of von Grabow’s potential for rehabilitation. His ruling referenced hearing testimony that the teen provided “minimal superficial details” to treating doctors and other mental health professional while he was at Highlands.
“The Court finds that the evidence presented at the hearing raises the concern that behavior such as obscuring symptoms and misleading treatment providers will likely impact” his ability to be successfully rehabilitated, the judge ruled. “The Court therefore finds it unlikely that the Juvenile can be rehabilitated by use of facilities available by the juvenile court.”
Van Nice dismissed at the hearing’s conclusion the idea that “big pharma” was the true culprit in the case, and insisted that methodical planning — including using his father and grandfather’s Amazon.com accounts to order items such as a helmet, tactical gloves and throwing knives — showed clear premeditation and deliberation.
“The people cannot tell you, standing here in front of you today, what caused these acts to occur. We don’t know, and we may never know,” Van Nice said.
“But what we do know is that throughout this week, what the court has seen is an attempt to place responsibility for these actions on everyone and everything but Aiden. ... This court needs to hold him accountable for the monthslong planning of the slaughter of Makayla Grote” as well as his targeting of others.
Van Nice also pointed to what she said was a clear lack of remorse shown by von Grabow throughout the week’s proceedings.
“The defendant ate candy and he smiled,” she said.
Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, email@example.com or twitter.com/chasbrennan